The New London, Texas, schoolhouse, March 18, 1937.
Photo courtesy London Museum, New London, Texas

Whatcha Readin’ For? Your Guide to the Fall Books Issue


Brad Tyer

A version of this story ran in the September 2013 issue.

Above: The New London, Texas, schoolhouse, March 18, 1937.

Here at The Texas Observer we love books. We read them on unbound manuscript pages, in review galleys, in hardback and paperback. We read them on iPads and occasionally on our phones. We’re not particularly prone to hand-wringing over the well-advertised death of print, partly because we suspect that reports of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but mostly because we think books are about the ideas they express and the prose and poetry that expresses them. We enjoy the musty smell of a used-book store as well as anyone, but, for the most part, pixels and ink serve similar purposes just fine.

Over the past year you may have noticed the Observer reaffirming this love with expanded coverage of writers and books of interest to Texas readers. Each monthly issue now features The Book Report, a longform review with more room to dive deeper into the state’s literary trends, overlooked publications and top-shelf topics. Online, our revamped Back of the Book blog bears witness to the state’s unflagging literary production with reviews, readings and interviews.

It’s been a summer of bookish news both sad and promising. With the passing of Glen Rose eminence John Graves in July, Texas lost its most beloved man of letters. Just a month later, the University of Texas Press announced its ambitious plan to fill a “Texas Bookshelf” with 16 commissioned volumes examining the state from a multitude of angles, kicking off in 2017 with a new narrative history of the Lone Star State by novelist and essayist Stephen Harrigan, arguably Graves’ heir apparent.

But until Harrigan’s history arrives, there’s no shortage of books to inflame our imaginations or authors to engage our attention. More than 225 of them will descend on Austin later this month to partake in the 19th annual Texas Book Festival. In the following links, you’ll find thoughtful considerations of several festival participants, including Reza Aslan, P.J. Hoover, Observer media columnist Bill Minutaglio, and co-authors Kate Galbraith and Asher Price.

You can also tag along on author Mary Helen Specht’s rediscovery of Woody Guthrie’s Texas through the lens of his long-lost novel House of Earth, accompany longtime contributor Steven G. Kellman as he takes a sneak peek at San Antonio’s new bookless library, and visit El Paso’s boundary-busting Cinco Puntos Press with Observer books editor David Duhr.

Articles from the fall books issue will be added as October continues. Be sure to check back for updates.

Texas Observer Oct. 2013 issueWoody Lived Here Too
Woody Guthrie’s House of Earth reminds us of the hardships people endured to make this state what it is, and of the populist roots that run through our past, whether chambers of commerce deign to recognize them or not.





"Jacob Wrestling the Angel," 1985.Robert Jensen on Zealot and The Self Beyond Itself
In this essay, Robert Jensen explores two new books: Zealot by Reza Aslan and The Self Beyond Itself by Heidi M. Ravven.


A wind farm near AmarilloWhere the Wind Cries Money
The Great Texas Wind Rush suggests that Texas is not so much an oil and gas state, or even an energy state, as a resource-exploitation state.



Ashley Hope PérezShort Story Winner, “3:17
Ashley Hope Pérez is our grand-prize recipient for her story “3:17.” Concerning the 1937 New London, Texas, school explosion, which claimed the lives of nearly 300 children and teachers, “3:17” calls to mind the recent West, Texas, explosion, which is why our guest judge Dagoberto Gilb calls it “a timely story” showing “strong and graphic writing.”




0d66d6ee703383552c11e554467460f1A New JFK Canon Carries the Torch
The 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination spurs a slew of books on the man, his presidency and his untimely demise in Dallas.






Body and BreadHouston Author Nan Cuba Aims Straight for the Heart with Body and Bread
A new book by Houston author Nan Cuba, Body and Bread explores how a sensitive person makes sense of her world.






Cinco Puntos Press’ El Paso storefront.El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press Aims for Cross-Border Understanding
Being so far removed from publishing’s power centers gives Cinco Puntos Press the freedom to pursue projects that would likely be judged too regional.



bexarcountybibliotechBexar County Reinvents the Library
On Sept. 14, San Antonion opened BiblioTech, the world’s first all-electronic public library.